10 Times Movies And TV Shows Did A Terrible Job Of Handling Serious Topics

Movies and TV shows are not perfect. There are always seems to be some sort of controversy surrounding them, whether it’s casting white actors for roles meant for people of color, the unfair and unequal pay for male and female celebrities, or the way they continue to push societal beauty standards on viewers. And, when it comes to handling serious topics, movies and television shows can often miss the mark. Sometimes they do a great job – I love how Jane The Virgin treats the topic of a young woman waiting for marriage to have sex, and no one can stop talking about the way Get Out approaches the serious racial issues we still deal with today. But other times? They totally fail. 

Now, of course, it’s easy to argue this away as being “no big deal.” After all, movies and TV shows are meant to be an escape from reality. They can’t be 100 percent realistic all the time, or they would be boring and drawn-out. It’s unfair to expect them to do everything accurately, but it’s not unfair to get annoyed when directors and writers take a serious topic and completely butcher it. Despite the fact that we know they’re fake, movies and shows do influence the way people think, and when it comes to covering something that’s a Big Deal, it’s important for them to do it in a way that is sensitive, thought-out, and real. Many of them don’t. This Ask Reddit thread talks about the times Hollywood did a really bad job of talking about serious topics. Check ’em out, and add your own thoughts in the comments below.

The Rape Scene in 40 Days And 40 Nights

Let's start out by saying that the way Hollywood handles males being raped is almost always wrong - and this is especially true in older movies and TV shows, before people started discussing male rape in a more serious way. User CatrionaShadowleaf said, "Anyone remember that movie 40 days and 40 nights? At the end that blonde chick rapes him. There are no two ways about this. She walks into his place before the time is up, jumps on his bed while he's asleep, and rapes him. And somehow this is his fault, and the girlfriend gets mad and runs away in tears, and it's never addressed at all. I was f****** appalled."

One way males being raped was addressed: they used a "hot" girl to help make it more acceptable, then turned things around to victim blame the guy. Not cool, man. This kind of attitude makes people take male rape less seriously.

Never Being Kissed in Glee

Glee was supposed to be a show that prided itself on how it showed marginalized people - instead, it was usually the effing worst. One example, as user thelastintheworld points out: "I immediately thought of Glee when reading this question. It's as if at one point Ryan Murphy decided that every episode would be a Very Special Episode™, even if it didn't fit any storyline at all. The one that angered me the most was the treatment of Coach Beiste, who was a nice lady who just wanted to be loved by someone and she was used as a comic relief until they revealed that she hadn't kissed anybody at 40something years old. That was nice enough. BUT THEN they started throwing ALL of the Very Special™ storylines at her: domestic abuse, transgender issues, etc. It didn't make any sense to the show but hey, they HAD to make episodes about every single issue in the book. They also did a couple of episodes that dealt with sexual abuse and dyslexia which were pretty cringy."

What they did to this character sucked - plain and simple.

Consent in Passengers

I haven't seen the movie Passengers, but I haven't heard great things, and this doesn't make me want to see it. User HeartMountainMan says, "Consent in Passengers. When Chris Pratt complains to the robot butler about being awake on the ship all alone for a year since accidentally waking up (before he wakes Lawrence up), it's cheesy for the bot to deliver the 'it's not the destination it's the journey' cliché because there's nothing for him to do alone for 89 years. But the characters keep repeating this platitude until it sanitizes Pratt waking Lawrence up and dooming her to live and die on the ship alone with him. It rationalizes what looks and feels like Stockholm Syndrome but which the male-written script keeps telling us is a sweet, enlightened romance."

Young Guys Getting Raped in Glee

Another example of the terrible handling of men getting raped is seen in Glee. User everdancing explains, "My memory could be wrong because I've never rewatched the series and I didn't finish the last two seasons. One of the characters on Glee ("Trouty mouth", whatever his name was) admits that his babysitter raped him, and the other characters dismiss him because 'that's a bros dream, so you should be happy it happened' and then the show never mentioned it again."

I HATE this narrative, one that exists IRL too often - young guys get raped by pedophile women, but she's attractive, so dudes act like it's a good thing, an accomplishment. It's not. And it's gross that shows like this go along with it.

Uncircumcised Penises in Sex And The City

Sex and The City did a lot of awful things when it came to presenting serious topics. One of them, as useraer71 says, is, "The episode where Charlotte shames a guy for having an uncircumcised penis. I've never been more angry at a TV show."

If I remember correctly, Charlotte DID end up hooking up with the guy and having an orgasm (I think), but the whole episode was about shaming someone with an uncircumcised penis, which is just really lame.

Cheating in Sex And The City

Another thing SATC did wrong was their presentation of cheating. User msstark says, "Cheating in Sex and the City. They act like 'everyone does it and it's ok.'" This attitude happened several times throughout all seasons of the show. It sounds like it's nothing, but if infidelity has ruined your relationship, you know how serious it can be.

Cheating in The Office

Another show that handled cheating badly, although in a slightly different ways, is The Office. User outforawalkbitca says, "The Office is my go-to example for shows that encourage cheating. Pam cheats on her fiancé and the audience is just supposed to cheer for her? Of course, I wanted Jim and Pam to get together, but not like that. But I never liked Pam throughout the whole show, so I'm pretty biased." A lot of movies and shows do this - they have someone cheat on their partner to end up with the love of their life, and that part of it makes it okay. In reality, cheating isn't the way to end one relationship and step into a new one.

Father/Son Relationships in That '70s Show

A lot of shows and movies, especially older ones, have this thing about showing father/son relationships in the wrost way. User sunandtheskyy points this out, saying, "Let me preface this by saying I will ALWAYS love this show, but That 70s Show deals with a father-son relationship in the worst possible way. I know it's a sitcom, but it still bothers me that it makes it seem normal or okay for a father to be so openly emotionally abusive to his son - the script has Red cutting Eric down constantly, never being able to tell him he is proud or loves him, expecting him to fail, criticizing him on his appearance, actions, lack of athletic ability, etc. The show makes it seem funny - and it is, in the show - but it sends a message that Red is a 'normal, red-blooded, American male' and that no one should expect men to be able to tell their family they love them or are proud of their sons, or show any emotion or ability to connect with family members whatsoever." Yup. All of this.

Guys Being Raped in Get Him To The Greek

And, once again, males being raped is used as comedic relief. User Cali_Ali says, "The main guys gets raped twice in Get Him to the Greek. I was watching that movie with a bunch of male coworkers, and they were having a good laugh. If the roles were reversed it would be a very disturbing scene, but because it's a guy HAHAHHAHAHAHA :("

How Women Act in Doctor Who

User WhimsyUU says, "This probably isn't the worst I've seen, but it sticks out in my memory. The 21st century Doctor Who show has had various issues with portraying women, and this was one of the most glaring examples. At one point, Amy and Rory are in the process of getting a divorce, and it seems to just be because of generic arguing that started off-screen. But then it turns out she drove him to that point and started the process solely because she isn't able to carry more children, and she knows he wants to have them. He already knew this, and he was content. It's not like she talked to him and they mutually decided to separate for that reason. He had no idea that was why she was divorcing him. So her reaction to finding out about her infertility was to break her husband's heart, not even giving him a choice to be happy with her. What??"

Which one of these scenes do you agree or disagree with? What other serious topics were handled badly? Tell us in the comments.

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  • disqus_vYLEEDXpJZ

    If you are going to talk about Glee, you should at least get your facts straight. Sam wasn’t the character raped, it was Ryder. The kids that said that were chastised by the Glee Club, and Ryder got the support he needed when another character came forward and told him her story, and they both explored their feelings about it.